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My quest from QWERTY to Dvorak... and back again (thanks Apple) :P

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I am in search of the perfect keyboard layout. Maybe you are too?

If you’re anything like I am, you have forever looked at the keys on your keyboard and thought: “There has got to be a better way.” I know I did. Years ago I taught myself how to type over 100 words a minute on a regular keyboard. I practiced for hours on end, like it was a game.

I became extremely quick, so quick that I could type fast enough that I actually could not read what I was typing. Seriously, I was a machine– I probably could have gotten a job transcribing the 6 o’clock news in real time. Yet I remained dissatisfied.

I finally found what I was looking for in the Dvorak keyboard. Due to the placement of the letters, Dvorak helps people type with much more relaxed hands, preventing stress and carpel tunnel, and eventually allowing for more speed than before. Here’s a video of the David Letterman show where they had a Dvorak typist  (the fastest in the world) compete live on the show, with hilarious results.

Anyway, there I was adapting to the fastest keyboard on the planet just last year. I had totally gotten used to the new layout (which looks like this btw) when a nightmare landed in my lap, literally. I got an iPad.

I’d like to mention at this point that, during the adaptation process to this new layout, I had remapped my idea of what a keyboard was to the Dvorak layout… I had literally forgotten the information I had previously learned and had no idea where the original keys were until I looked down at the keyboard. It was weird. It was like my brain only had room for one layout.

So it’s likely that very few of you know this, but Dvorak is not supported on iPad since it’s a closed system, it can’t be changed without jailbreaking, which I’d have to do for every software update, blah blah blah. Basically it’s a pain in the ass.

Unsurprisingly for an enterprising type such as myself, I am looking at alternatives at this point, including possibly learning to type in QWERTY with one-hand, which I’ve always considered to be the Holy Grail of the keyboard world. There are alternate layouts for one-handed typing, but I think it’s become clear at this point that the future is software keyboards, and that Dvorak is not included in this mission. So this blog post is being written in QWERTY and, let me tell you, it’s slow going. Returning to this layout almost feels like going back to the stone-age– it feels clunky and weird.

I’m not sure why I’m posting this, really. It isn’t anti-Apple or anything but it is giving me an idea o what can happen to (valid) alternate usage stuff when you have closed platforms like the iPad is. First time when I’ve tried to hack something into working better for me and now it’s been made unavailable. 😛

Has this ever happened to you? Please pipe up if it has, I’d be interested in hearing the story.

* Filed by at 4:05 pm under experiments


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7 Responses to “My quest from QWERTY to Dvorak... and back again (thanks Apple) :P”

  1. John McLschlan Says:

    Julien, though I don’t use a dvorak keyboard myself, I do sympathize with you. It would be like me having to start looking at a Windows machine. Clunk.

    Someone (Apple for example) should allow the keyboard to be changed, but I am so not getting the ruckus these days about open source. It’s like everyone is supposed to be for it as if it’s become politically correct. . I think the model that Apple is taking is a sign of a more mature product line.

    This argument for open source makes me think of kids I knew in high school who bemoaned the fact that the newer cars couldn’t be taken apart like the old ones and ” wasn’t that a shaam?” My reply? NOPE, it wasn’t a shame.

    Sorry form ranting but I think I’m going to snap if I hear how hard done by we all are and evil Apple is for doing what it’s doing.

  2. Judy Helfand Says:

    Julien,
    I have only used the QWERTY keyboard. I learned to type in 7th grade summer school. It has served me well over the years. I am wondering how many of your readers will scramble to look-up QWERTY. But you asked “has this ever happened to you?” I think you mean that have I gotten used to using something and then suddenly it is no longer available to use, because one of the big players (Microsoft, Apple, Google) decided we can only use their “ball” in their field. This past week something did happen on IE8. (Relax, I use IE8 for testing reasons, among others) I invite you to go to this forum and just read through the question and comments…you will see MS got mad at Google, and the end-users had to suffer in the DARK! http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Web+Search/thread?tid=5719a574f076b251&hl=en
    The latest comment is particularly entertaining.

  3. Adele McAlear Says:

    In the category of, Adele Has Too Much Useless Trivia in Her Head: Did you know that the QWERTY keyboard came about as a result of “typebar clashes”? It was designed to actually slow down the speed of typists to prevent keys from jamming. As a testament to the longevity of habits, this slow keyboard has stuck around for more than 130 years.

  4. Scott Gould Says:

    hey Julien

    Was actually thinking about this the other day and wondering how you’d get on with an iPad. Hope. You find a solution.

    Scott

  5. Malcolm Bastien Says:

    I’m the victim of the exact same problem, though with my keyboard layout of Colemak. It’s a no go for any solution to this problem in the short term..

    Which is especially annoying because the implementation of a solution (changing the keyboard setting from the iPad OS) is just so easy to do for them that if they wanted to, we could be typing on our keyboard layout of choice in time for supper.

    Ah well.. For me this means awkward typing when I have to, and more consumption than producing anything on the device.

  6. Pavel Says:

    Just wanted to drop a note of encouragement — it is Apple who needs to change, not its customers! They just need to hear from us more. I have just completed a trilogy of articles on keyboards on my blog (including discussion of Dvorak and Colemak), and I also sent feedback to Apple. More info here if you like: http://soukie.net/2010/05/15/of-keyboards-and-men-2/

  7. Todd Says:

    Although the pop-up keyboard doesn’t currently support the Dvorak layout, the keyboard dock and the wireless keyboard can be configured for Dvorak via Settings.

    [Reconfiguring the pop-up keyboard to Dvorak — if this option were available — would likely result in smaller keys, since — for example — there are more letters on the Dvorak home row than there are on the iPad QWERTY pop-up keyboard.]

    Todd

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